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Palace construction embarks

Renovations started Monday morning at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

Rows of orange cones lined the sidewalk and street in front of the Corn Palace on Monday as a two-phase, nearly $7.2 million renovation that's been years in the making got under way.

Mitchell Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Jacki Miskimins, whose office is directly across from the Corn Palace, said Monday it was exciting to see construction begin.

"It's been a long process and a long time coming, so to actually get started feels a little bit surreal, but very, very positive," she said.

The large murals on the front of the Corn Palace had been completely stripped of corn by Monday afternoon, exposing the wood panels beneath. Many of those wood panels will be replaced during the construction process, Deputy Public Works Director Terry Johnson said Monday.

"It's exciting to see it all happening," Johnson said.

The Corn Palace's main entrance was open Monday, but could close as soon as Wednesday morning, when the 600 block of North Main Street will be completely blocked off to traffic, Johnson said. Once the main entrance is closed, visitors will enter through a temporary entrance on the south side of the building.

The box office was also still open Monday, but will be moved to the temporary entrance after the main entrance is closed.

The 100 block of East Sixth Avenue, directly south of the Corn Palace, will be closed to traffic next Tuesday, but a corridor for pedestrians will allow visitors to access the temporary entrance from both North Main Street and North Lawler Street, Johnson said.

Construction of temporary walls meant to separate visitors from the work areas in the Corn Palace began Monday and will likely continue for much of the week, Johnson said. Demolition both inside the building and outside on the balcony could begin by the end of the week.

A local company, Mueller Lumber, was awarded the bid for the construction by the City Council on May 19.

A celebratory event meant to officially kick off construction is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday in the courtyard across from the Corn Palace, according to Miskimins. The event will be open to the public and popcorn will be available.

"It's just something that was very important for the entire team to celebrate," Miskimins said.